Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof

Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

A Geographical History of San Francisco

In Art, History, Poetry, San Francisco, Science, Technology on December 19, 2016 at 11:51 pm

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Since we moved back to San Francisco last year, I’ve been taking pictures of places of literary and artistic note in the city. I published a post on “literary life in North Beach” on my agency’s blog. This is an ongoing and less geographically restrictive diary of the city’s literary, artistic, scientific, and political history.

202 Green Street, where on September 7, 1927, under the auspices of William Crocker (grandson of the transcontinental railroad magnate Charles) and the Crocker Bank, Philo T. Farnsworth and his “Lab Gang” sent the first TV signal ever broadcast to the Merchants Club about eight blocks away. Read the rest of this entry »

Liquid Armor

In Journalism, Technology on April 7, 2012 at 6:39 pm

Liquid armor from BAE


This is a story I got half-written before I realized the accounts I was reading referenced a story several years old. Still, it’s interesting so I finished it and here it is. You’re welcome.

The British defense and security company, BAE Systems, has announced “shear thickening liquid.” The name’s no great shakes but apparently, this is a gel that can stop a bullet. The liquid has been designed to provide armor that is much lighter and easier to wear than the traditional Kevlar fabric and ceramic plate outfit that is de rigeur among the world’s armed forces today. Read the rest of this entry »

Jetpack Journalism: In the Future, No One Will Blah Blah Blah

In Technology on November 14, 2010 at 7:23 pm

eggbeaters

In the online world – software development, hardware, mobile, Web and Internet and writing about the preceding – there is a terrible trend to announce the utter replacement of something old by a new technology. Are these pronouncements a result of lack of perspective, or of judgment, a desire to be a part of something important or a desire to be seen as prescient? I’m not sure, but this indulgence of proclamations has never ceased.

The latest is in a post on TechCrunch. In it, the author attempts to be seen as aware of this facet of tech teleology, but can’t stop herself from indulging in it anyway.

“Less obsolete but more annoying than a handwritten letter, the phone call is fading as a mode of communication even if the nostalgic will be singing its praises for awhile.” Read the rest of this entry »

Either Bob or Debbie

In Technology on December 21, 2008 at 4:20 am

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The Pantheon

Today a friend and I were talking about how little life there is on the streets, compared to when we were in college. I thought it was probably because a lot of spontaneous creative impulse goes online nowadays. That in turn happens, I think, because of the fiction of recognition. If I stage a parade down the main street by the university, a few people will see it. If I do something online, a million people may see it. It’s the extension of the fantasy of fame into our personal lives, lives in which no great risks are taken, in which a person who photographs themselves in “wacky” sweaters is as likely, if not more likely, to be recognized, as a painter working for 20 years, whose skill and vision rivals that of Paula Mondersohn-Becker.

It is my belief that, as the online world becomes, as everything does, assumed into the general population, as it becomes less and less a place where attendance establishes you as a special being and where the fantasies of fame and value become as difficult to sustain as in the real world but where the payoff is much less, some group of young people is going to haul off and say fuck it! They’ll go out on the streets. They’ll make paintings, and sing songs, and stage plays and generally freak out the oldsters who will grow enraged that these kids aren’t at home tagging photos like they did when they were young.

In the meantime, I personally have felt that the widespread ties that seemed like they would never stop growing, that the small bit of recognition I have gotten online, have hit the reality of the Law of Diminishing Returns. I do more and get less. And meanwhile, the streets have even fewer people than they did the night before, and even less of me than they did. Or, more to the point, I have less of the streets in me than I ever did. Maybe it’s a transient feeling, though it intrudes more and more as the months go on. Perhaps I’ll do nothing about it. Or, perhaps I’ll do something cataclysmic, like delete all my online properties, insofar as I can. (People say once you’re on the Internet, you are on for good. I have not found that no more true than most common wisdom.) Maybe I’ll create a publication again. If I do, it won’t have an online presence. And so it will be as precious as gold. Or as popular as it would have been had I given it one.

I remember when I was in college, I and friends of mine, would make a pilgrimage to the 7-11 near the University. The pilgrimage would have to be after midnight because that was when Willie MacCallum worked. I think I don’t have that name right. Anyway, every month or so Willie would publish another edition of Either Bob or Debbie. EBOD was a hand-written, hand-drawn, usually four-paged “magazine.” By magazine, I mean it was Xeroxed on either stapled-together 8 1/2 x 11 paper or on 11 x17 paper that was folded over. (I think it was the former, at least mostly.) It was a comedy magazine, whose sole author was also its illustrator, art director, publisher and typesetter. It was weird as hell, a combination of  a dadaist manifesto and the Prairie Home Companion. For weeks afterward it would be quoted and talked about. It isn’t on the Internet. Not anywhere. Last I checked, there was not even a single reference to it there. If that remains so, this will be the first. But when every transient post on every blog has dissipated into the electronic ether, there will still be copies of Either Bob or Debbie found between the pages of somebody’s Riverside Shakespeare. No one will remember TechCrunch, but someone, somewhere, will remember Either Bob or Debbie.

Poetry vs. Blogging

In Art, Technology on November 25, 2008 at 3:34 am

Fussing around and constantly botching then trying to fix the formatting and standardize the tagging of my translations of Lorca’s Poema del Cante Jondo is sucking every trace of joy out of it. Blogging has become tedious anyway. All of you pie-eyed Englishmen looking for “naked bums*” (98 out of every 100 visitors to this blog) will probably be able to hold on until the whole book is done anyway.

*No, I’m not going to link to the post. You’ll find it anyway. And boy, will you be disappointed.

Doodad Apocalypse

In Technology on April 25, 2007 at 6:29 pm

First there was the Palm Pilot which bred a host of “PDAs.” From that pack emerged the Blackberry. That in turn whelped phone combos like the Treo and now the iPhone. I had a couple of thoughts about these phone-computer-phonograph-coffee mill hybrids.

First, if you are a domestic-only consumer of media, considering that the U.S.A., being the font of at least most technical innovations, is going to hit it all first, I would like to ask you to reconsider. I remember reading a post from the first Chinese Bloggers Conference back in 2005. One of the dominant themes of the commentary was one blogger’s amazement at how relentlessly the Chinese participants used their cellular phones. Everyone had a multiple-use phone and everyone utilized it to its full capacity At that moment, I remember thinking I only had to wait to see this become a non-specialist’s reality in the U.S. It has.

My second thought about these ubiquitous and sometimes rage-inducing devices is that when someone outside of a group satirizes it, they usually create something more embarrassing and awkward and accidentally-funny than piercing and piss-taking. (Anyone else old enough for the phrase “the punk rock episode of Quincy” to mean anything?) But I, always on the lookout for you, my dear, dear readers, have found someone who makes such evil-minded fun of digital tool-obsessed gear queens that it brings a tear to your eye. Often, the one with the hatpin in it.

I’m talking about Terry Pratchett, of course. Pratchett is best known for his series of novels set on “Discworld” (a planet the shape of a dinner plate that travels through the universe on the back of four gigotious elephants, who in turn stand on the back of the cosmic turtle—duh). His second-to-latest, Thud, details the frustrations and challenges facing Samuel Vimes, head cop of the Ankh-Morpork city watch. One of those frustrations is a device given to him by his wife. The “Gooseberry” is an imp-powered personal organizer.

Duddle-dum-duddle-dum-duddle—

Vimes slammed the Gooseberry down on the desk and picked up the small loaf of dwarf bread that for the last few years he’d used as a paperweight.

“Switch off or die,” he growled.

“Now, I can see you’re slightly upset,” said the imp. Looking up at the looming loaf, “but could I ask you to look at things from my point of view? This is my job. This is what I am. I am, therefore I think. And I think we could get along famously if you would only read the manu—please, no! I really could help you!”

Vimes decides finally to set the imp to work at processing an immense amount of his neglected paperwork, looking for criminal patterns of activity. Although he never completely loses his distaste for this irritating device (and refuses to allow it to determine the course of his day), he figures out how to make it work for him. And this is the key: Technology should work for you. You should not have to work for it. Technology works differently for different people. So find your own relationship with it. Don’t fall for the fiction that there is a “right” way to use technology.

(The previous post was created using an Avery-Dennison 43-581 slaved to a Uni-ball Vision-fine.)

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Netvibes Has High Utility-to-Blind Rage Ratio

In Technology on January 3, 2007 at 9:46 am

I’m not an “early adopter.” I rarely listen to podcasts. I don’t check email on my cell phone. I think Jeff Jarvis was right in saying that the providers of blogging software and services have not gotten their products to a point where a user need not worry about technical issues. Of course, the other side of the coin says that even televisions, the ultimate “user friendly” technology, can still occasionally be frustrating. My question is always, “Does the utility of a piece of technology outweigh its demands?” In other words, is there a positive usefulness-blind rage ratio?

Whether or not I adopt a piece of technology—a product, software, a service—has always been how well it serves my dirty, sinful urges. I have three criteria for evaluating technology. My. That sounds fancy. There’s no “evaluation process” going on. I just thought about what I like and all the communications technology products I use seem to have three elements.

1. It allows me to gather information and read it with a minimum of fuss.
2. It acts as a tool to untangle and marshal my thoughts.
3. It provides another way to express myself.

By these three criteria the AJAX home page Netvibes does the trick for me. Netvibes is a module-based home page. You can route RSS feeds and email through it. Others have created modules based on Netvibes’ API, such as the Weather Channel module you can edit with your zip code. Essentially, it lets you create a command panel for your online world. Start up your browser and there it all is before you.

Among the detailed elements I like is a rollover function. Pass your cursor over a post in your feed reader and the first paragraph is visible. Something I first believed to be a flaw—the fact that sometimes feeds don’t seem to function—I now believe is actually not a flaw but the revelation of malfunctioning feeds, feeds that might be hidden in another reader. I’ve edited the feeds I subscribed to slightly based on these revelations.

If you’re new to social media and would like a relatively low-frustration way to subscribe to feeds and keep your daily information in one tidy application, you could do worse than Netvibes.

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